On Sunday, February 9, Shi'a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr threatened that if Prime Minister Allawi failed to form an independent government by the Monday, March 2 deadline, he would be toppled within days. Sadr also threatened that if Allawi's government is rejected by the rest of government, his supporters will hold protests in the international zone, where embassies and government facilities are located.
These threats come amid significant divisions, with Sadr seeking a government that will not accommodate the Popular Mobilization Forces, a political rival, and anti-government protesters rejecting Allawi due to his perceived identification as part of the ruling elite. Allawi, meanwhile, has reportedly held consultations with political blocs to push back against the agenda of quotas which has stood for 16 years as he embarks on his mission to form a new, independent government.
Anti-government protests took place on Sunday in Baghdad and Dhi Qar, who were joined by students to continue rejecting the Prime Minister. Family members of protesters in Najaf took to the streets to call for those responsible for the deaths of protesters the week prior to be held to account.
Associated protests are to be expected in the coming days by the anti-government movement and Sadr supporters. A heightened security presence is to be anticipated in the vicinity of any demonstration.
Demonstrations broke out in Iraq on October 1, 2019, to protest alleged government corruption, inadequate provision of public services, and a lack of job opportunities. Following weeks of relatively calm demonstrations, violence resumed on October 24-25, coinciding with the deadline issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani to the government issuing them to produce a report on the members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) that were responsible for firing at civilians during previous demonstrations. An estimated 669 people have been killed and some 24,488 people have been wounded since the protests began.
Individuals in Iraq are advised to closely monitor the situation, avoid all protests and large public gatherings due to potential violence, prepare for disruptions to transportation and business in areas affected by anti-government demonstrations, and adhere to all instructions issued by the local authorities and their home governments.
The security environment in Iraq remains complex. Although travel is possible in some areas with proper security protocols in place, other areas should be considered strictly off-limits. Professional security advice and support should be sought prior to all travel.
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